Six different teams received at least one first-place vote this week, as we continue to live in a world without a clear-cut No. 1 team. Michigan State's miraculous win over Michigan, LSU's defeat of Florida, and Alabama's romp over Texas A&M provided some clarity for now ... but we are still far from having this college football season sorted out.
1. Ohio State (Last Week: 1)
Uniforms aside, the Buckeyes finally looked pretty good against a decent opponent as they bludgeoned Penn State for over 300 yards on the ground. We still wouldn't have them at No. 1, but they at least showed signs of life. Urban Meyer has decided to go with J.T. Barrett as the starting quarterback, and perhaps that will lead to better play down the stretch with Ohio State's two true tests lying at the end of the season.
2. Baylor (Last Week: 2)
The Bears continue to plaster the scoreboard with insane offensive numbers, and while you can't accuse them of having a great defense, they may be able to simply outscore any team that crosses their path. Baylor's back-loaded schedule doesn't provide a true test until November, so expect those kind of outputs to continue for the time being.
3. Utah (Last Week: 4)
The Utes trailed entering the fourth quarter but used 20 unanswered points to put away Arizona State at home. They jumped TCU to move to No. 3, although it seems like odd timing for that switch considering the Frogs had a fairly comparable win this week. Utah is an underdog on the road this week at unranked Southern Cal, which shows the lack of confidence people have in the Utes. A top-5 ranking isn't unreasonable, but the feeling here is that Utah is playing very close to its ceiling and will falter eventually.
4. TCU (Last Week: 3)
West Virginia may give TCU a run in Fort Worth this weekend, but the next real threat to the Frogs' undefeated record is the following week at Oklahoma State. That's just one game in what should be a hectic November in the Big XII.
5. LSU (Last Week: 6)
The Tigers won the battle of unbeatens against Florida in Baton Rouge on (Surprise!) a fake field goal and swap spots with Clemson in the poll. Considering the reactionary nature of the rankings, it wasn't hard to see that coming after a win against a top-10 team. It's the first win over a worthwhile opponent for LSU though, and the tougher half of its SEC gauntlet is still to come.
6. Clemson (Last Week: 5)
Clemson shook off a slow start against BC and cruised to the expected win. The offensive performance against a pretty stout Eagles defense is notable and could have been even more substantial had Deshaun Watson shored up a couple deep balls early on. You could gripe about the one-spot drop if you're into that kind of thing, but it's just win, baby, win for Clemson at this point.
7. Michigan State (Last Week: 7)
You've seen the play, and you still can't explain it. The aftermath is Sparty remaining undefeated after a game seemingly everyone thought it had no chance to win. We still don't believe this is a playoff team, and the fact they stayed put at No. 7 after a road win of that magnitude shows the voters also didn't consider rewarding such a fortunate finish.
8. Alabama (Last Week: 10)
I have no choice but to accept my tasty plate of crow after calling for the Tide to lose at A&M this past Saturday. Derrick Henry was magnificent, and Alabama forced the typically unflappable Kyle Allen into three pick-sixes (What?). It should be smooth sailing the rest of the way save for a home date with LSU, and a win there would skyrocket Bama into the thick of the playoff discussion.
9. Florida State (Last Week: 11)
The Seminoles are gradually playing better, but much like Clemson, they can't afford to overlook anybody ahead of the yearly Atlantic Division showdown. Dalvin Cook is a bad man, and Everett Golson (formerly Mr. Turnover) still hasn't turned the ball over this season. I'm somewhat intrigued that a run-first quarterback like Lamar Jackson threw for 300 yards against FSU (a week after Brad Kaaya threw for 400), so we're still not sold on that defense. What separates the 'Noles from teams like LSU, Clemson and Michigan State is the lack of a definitive win to hang their hat on.
10. Stanford (Last Week: 15)
The Cardinal drove a stake into any fleeting playoff hopes UCLA might have had and continues to make a case as the strongest of the one-loss teams. We don't see a realistic chance for another loss before games against Cal and Notre Dame to close the season. Those are both at home, however, so an 11-1 finish is not a ridiculous projection by any means. Hypothetically, if Stanford met Utah in the Pac 12 Championship, is there any way you're taking the Utes?
11. Notre Dame (Last Week: 14)
The Irish looked to be down and out trailing by seven entering the fourth quarter against Southern Cal, but they mounted two 90+-yard touchdown drives and shut out the Trojans in the final period to pull out a 10-point win. Notre Dame gets a bye week before back-to-back road games against newly ranked foes Temple and Pitt that could provide unexpected opportunities to bolster its playoff resume.
12. Iowa (Last Week: 17)
Iowa absolutely blasted Northwestern (the collapse continues) and must now be taken seriously as a threat to go undefeated. The Hawkeyes are a curious case, as they could finish the season unbeaten having played in a major conference with its best win being a 3-point home triumph over Pitt. Hardly playoff worthy, but that would also set them up in a conference championship game against Ohio State, Michigan State, or Michigan. If they pulled an upset there, could you really avoid including them in the top 4?
13. Florida (Last Week: 8)
The Gators put forth a gutty effort behind backup quarterback Treon Harris but came up just short against LSU. Jim McElwain has done a terrific job in his first season at Florida, but come on man — not having the boys ready for a fake field goal against a Les Miles-coached team? That oversight has to be eating away at the coach after the Gators' first loss of the season.
14. Oklahoma State (Last Week: 16)
Thank God the Cowboys got a week off to prepare for Kansas.
T-15. Michigan (Last Week: 12)
The Wolverines were climbing the rankings at an alarming rate and a win over Michigan State would have likely vaulted them into the top 10. They were 10 seconds away, but disaster struck and the wild fumble return all but sealed Michigan's fate as a playoff also-ran.
T-15. Texas A&M (Last Week: 9)
With just one loss, A&M will have an opportunity to recover and re-enter the playoff conversation. But the loss to Alabama was not pretty, and the Aggies will have to turn things around quickly as they head to Oxford to face what should be an ornery Ole Miss team.
17. Oklahoma (Last Week: 19)
As bad as the loss to Texas was, the Sooners completely bulldozed Kansas State on the road this past week, outgaining Bill Snyder's squad an astounding 568 to 110. They can continue to build steam with three straight winnable games before the murderers' row of Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma State to round out the season.
18. Memphis (Last Week: NR)
We warned about the surging Tigers last week, and lo and behold Paxton Lynch and the boys put a sizeable chink in the SEC's armor by knocking off Ole Miss. After the Rebels jumped out to a 14-0 lead, Memphis ripped off 31 straight points and went on to win by double digits. There may be something to this AAC movement (with three undefeated teams now inhabiting the top 25), and an undefeated finisher - while not realistically in the playoff picture - could be another expediter of an expanded playoff field.
19. Toledo (Last Week: 22)
Speaking of teams that have a chance to go undefeated, Toledo has reached the halfway point of that distinction after blowing out Eastern Michigan.
20. California (Last Week: 23)
Cal isn't out of the playoff race, but it is working with a razor-thin margin of error. There is significant work to be done, starting with a road trip to UCLA this week.
21. Houston (Last Week: 24)
The Cougars are on a collision course with Memphis for the AAC West division crown, and like Memphis they boast one of the nation's top offenses.
22. Temple (Last Week: NR)
If Temple can notch a road win this week over ECU, the Owls will be in prime position to face either Memphis or Houston (or sleeper, Navy) in the AAC Championship.
23. Duke (Last Week: 25)
Duke gets a tricky road date with Virginia Tech and returning quarterback Michael Brewer this week to prove whether it is a true contender in the ACC Coastal.
24. Ole Miss (Last Week: 13)
Ole Miss is now relegated to a spoiler role after being upset by Memphis, and that could spell disaster for the SEC in the playoff race, as the Rebels are still very much in contention for the West division crown.
25. Pittsburgh (Last Week: NR)
Pitt's wins haven't been overwhelming, but the Panthers are 3-0 in the ACC with a lone loss on the road to Iowa. I have no problem with the Panthers' inclusion here.